“There are only embodiments and authorizations”  also in language: A language functions by authorizing an addressee through an articulated embodiment of signifiers. The authorization of the addressee is grounded by a will to speak, and the embodiment of signifiers is grounded by a system of language. What happens in the speaking is determined by the synchronization between the embodiment and the authorization.
When the two processes are synchronized, the signifiers directly embody the authorization of the addressee, and the speaker’s will to speak is disavowed, it becomes indistinguishable from the system of language. Example of this kind of discourse is flattery or compliment. This is a symbolic authorization based on the fetish of the signifiers . This is how a supposed subject of knowing is authorized.
When the two processes are asynchronous, the embodiment is indirect: the signifiers can embody the speaker’s will that grounds the authorization of the addressee. In this case, the system of language that grounds the articulation becomes accessible as the repressed “other side” of the speaker’s will. This is a real authorization based on the symptom of the signifiers . Example of this kind of discourse is an analysand’s free association. This is the way of self-authorization.
“Concept” is a special signifier that functions in order to mark the value of a particular signifier. For example, “the concept of state” marks the value of the signifier “state”. This “conceptual” value of a signifier can be either fetishistic or symptomatic.
If the speaker believes that the “concept” (signified) of a signifier exists independently of a will to speak about it, then (s)he has a fetishistic “conception” about that particular signifier. The supposed “arbitrariness” (Saussure) of the signifier derives from such a fetishistic “conception” that disavows the will to speak. A supposed subject of knowing is always “conceived” in such a fetishistic way. Such “conceptions” render the system of language inaccessible. The objectivity of biology “conceived” by a vulgar materialism is a good example of this.
If the speaker acknowledges that the concept is made by the context, i.e. that the conception of a signifier always relies on the will to speak about it, then (s)he has a symptomatic conception of that particular signifier. Such a conception renders the system of language accessible as the repressed “other side” of the will to speak. In a symptomatic conception, signifiers are never arbitrary, they always summon and echo (or repel) one another. Examples of such conceptions: a working-through in analysis, a mourning after a loss. Through symptomatic conceptions, the speaker is able to authorize himself/herself.
Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler (Placeless Things) blog, Admin/Editor/Curator of Žižekian Analysis, and one of the admins of “Žižek and the Slovenian School” group on Facebook. Twitter: @BarisFidaner